Labels can be extremely important. If you don’t think so, go ask a diabetic! But many people are uncomfortable when it comes to labels and Christianity. There is concerted effort to redefine or change the terminology these days. It used to be enough to say that there was a difference between being religious and being Christian. Now you can’t even be a Christian anymore, but you need to be a “Christ-follower.” We’re told that this is not only hip and trendy, but necessary to reach a people that don’t like Christianity or the church anymore. Some even say that they don’t have a problem with Jesus, just the church! We’re too judgmental. We’re too hateful. We’re too opinionated.
What I find is that most people have a caricature of Jesus, Christianity and the church that they are responding to. Let’s take Jesus for a minute. Yes, he is loving and kind. Yes, he died for us. But he called out sin. He even called people names. He made a whip of cords and drove people out of the temple, probably not once but twice! Do you have a full picture of who Jesus is? Does society?
Many people look at the Church or the concept of Christianity and feel physically sick. They see a constant picture of abuse and neglect. They think about the people that have harmed them in the past. They can’t get beyond any of that. But, from my understanding, most Red Cross meals that are served after a natural disaster are served by Christian organizations. Food banks are provided by churches. Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian organization, is on the forefront of the fight against Ebola in Africa. Churches offer counseling. They house community events. They reach out. They help provide a sense of belonging and caring that can be so difficult to find in today’s world.
I believe that one of our basic problems today is that we don’t have a real sense of who God is and how he works in the world. We don’t really believe that the Holy Spirit convinces, that God calls, or that the Bible convicts. We think that it’s all up to clever marketing, high pressure sales, and a watered down message. Blame my rant on my current sermon series. God is Sovereign! God is in control!
Does that mean we don’t try? Does that mean we don’t present the gospel? Does that mean we don’t reach out to people? Of course not! “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace.” We are called to proclaim. We’re called to be faithful. We’re called to follow. But we have to make sure that we understand that God is doing the work, God is doing the calling, God is doing the convincing, and that, try as we might to have an effect through our own power and reasoning, we probably just end up convincing ourselves how clever we are instead of pleasing God.
So, after all is said and done, what am I? Sure I’m a Christian, but I’m also a protestant, evangelical, Baptist pastor, and I’m not ashamed to say it. I believe that if we follow God it doesn’t matter what we’re called or what we call ourselves. I believe that theology is important. I believe that the gospel is important. I believe that God is on his throne. And I think that all of that it important this Christmas.